In their new book, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives
, Steve Wilkens and Mark Sanford examine cultural scripts that work against the gospel work in the Church. Our theme today: nationalism.
The motto: My Nation, Under God.
Honest question: If Jesus were alive and living in the USA today would he be a patriotic American? Who has learned his or her lesson about the seductiveness of nationalism? How did you learn it?
Now Wilkens and Sanford are examining religious nationalism: the belief that the USA (any nation) is uniquely favored by God and an integral part of God’s plan.
Big one, I admit. Esp for a Friday. Still, we need to converse about this in a civil manner. The authors believe that patriotism — love of one’s country — is a good thing. Patriotism that loses perspective is an evil thing, so they say. Patriotism that loses perspective becomes nationalism.
Where to begin?
Nations are artificial boundaries and are not eternal. Nations come into existence through power: economic, military and stability. Nations that become focused on these powers become nationalistic.
You may be a nationalist if…
1. You think God’s plan for the world would be severely hampered without the USA.
2. You think it unthinkable for a citizen to refuse to pledge allegiance or sing the anthem for religious reasons.
3. You think our Declaration of Independence or Constitution are eternal principles and never to be changed.
4. You think our nation would be better if we got back to the way things were.
Wow, but there are some good in national thinking: we are less individualists, less tribalists, nations help with the common good, and our national identity helps us understand ourselves.
But… we need to realize that our national measure has to be compared to the divine standard, not just against itself; the “other” is not a challenger to us but our neighbor; nationalism overreaches loyalty into idolatry; nationalism forgets the transnational nature of God’s church.